Saturday, 19 March 2016

Acceptable or Not Acceptable?

Seen on Facebook:-

Just wondered what to make of this recent scenario. Service user on standard licence, fails 3 appointments over a 1 month period. Marked as unacceptable as they were unacceptable. No recall as I phoned him (as we have to do now) and he answered so 'still in contact'. Email from 'Enforcement Team' stating that as we are not recalling - I need to make one of the absences acceptable. I've raised at SPO level that I am not happy to do this as none of them were justifiable absences - but have been told this HAS to be done, as otherwise the 'enforcement procedure' won't work. I've been told I can put in the contact that it is not actually acceptable - but it needs to be marked as acceptable. (I've no issue with the SPO I believe they are as frustrated as I am). But who actually has the time to read all the contacts to see why an absence is accepted - and if there are future absences the full picture of compliance is skewed - but for my memory! Am I being unreasonable to feel uncomfortable with this? Is this across the board? (I am CRC).

I don't think CRCs are paid if the supervision period isn't completed successfully. Which would explain the reluctance to breach/recall people...... Or am I cynical??

I don't even object to not having the recall (though you may be right). I just can't see why these cant 'lie on file' in case they are needed in future. They always used to ...!

Probably to do with a target somewhere behind the scenes.

I'm recording in delius like a mad woman because when the proverbial hits the fan I want it documented that I was following orders against my better judgement

My feelings are the same as you! I think we have to use the Acceptable Absence - Professional Judgement....? Feels like cooking the books.

Yep that's the one I used. I think

I would be happier if either we had a uniform 3 UA's and you're recalled approach - which is what the enforcement process is seeking - or whoever refused the recall makes them acceptable!! Just not in my name!

The whole enforcement process gives me a headache!! I feel as though I'm constantly checking for breach summons issued and breach listings dates. Just leaving it to someone else doesn't sit comfortably with me.

Sounds like something worth whistleblowing...

Nobody cares

Very true. No one gives a shit.

As far as I can tell, CRC companies are refusing to let Responsible Officers breach people. A breach, of itself, is a minor loss of apparent success but, since the breaches are prosecuted by the NPS side, they run the risk of being revoked and resentenced which is a flat out failure. This loses them a lot of money and that is now the most important factor in every case. This is leading to the clientele realising that compliance no longer matters. This is going to get much worse.

Will stay like this till the SFO. Get told in writing every time, print 'em and keep 'em.

There's been SFOs but they're hush hush!

This is totally unacceptable and if he goes out and commits murder or something as serious and it goes for a review guess who's head is on the block.

Which is WHY you get it in writing. If they have any sense then the SPO will have the direction in writing as well.

I agree have a good paper trail and let your SPO know that you are doing it and WHY.

Jeez...I said at the start (as many did) that TR would result in SFOs. It will happen I have no doubt. In the meantime, cover your arse!

I think it's an ndelius issue that it has to be marked acceptable because if it's not it would trigger other ndelius things. Given the decision I think you'll have no choice but to mark acceptable but I would note your comments/views and note where the decision had come from. I would also make a separate entry marked case decision or case discussion abc nite your views so if audited there is a record or if an SFO it's there. Now I anticipate potential views on this but I would be tempted to do a home visit when you can, more for you and the case management. All you can do is protect yourself as a worker you can't effect the decisions higher up and on there head that is. Good luck your not alone.

If u feel ur right u should stick to ur guns.

I would probably put in the note "this absence has been changed to acceptable to meet new enforcement process requirements although it remains an unacceptable absence". It's your name going on the entry frown emoticon ridiculous!

Thank you all. The SPO's are generally on top of it and record on Delius the decision making around not recalling. For the ones I have had to make acceptable I have literally outlined that I have been 'instructed' to make it acceptable but will get this in writing from now on and copy emails in. I've also had some thoughts around the enforcement policy which I will be looking into if I'm in the same situation again. Thankyou all for your support. x

I'm CRC and no you don't have to make one acceptable if it's not, that's cooking the books. Even before TR you would ring an offender to find out why they didn't attend and if they answered and had a decent excuse you'd make a defensible decision re recall. The absences should stay as they are, but your contact (SPO consultation/management oversight) would explain your reason for not recalling.

On second thoughts!! If someone missed three appointments that you thought were unacceptable but after speaking to him you decided not to recall. Doesn't that mean you accepted his reasons for at least one of those absences and therefore it is no longer unacceptable? Otherwise you would be recalling...

Helpful discussion..... thank you.

I'd point blank refuse.....what the hell is happening here. This sickens me tbh. Absences are either acceptable or not....massaging the figures shouldn't be happening. Senior staff shouldn't be asking us to do this. I think bottom line here is that of a manager wants it on they can put it on.

Think of an SFO......if you're noting you don't accept the reasons for an absence why the bloody hell are they asking you to mark it as acceptable.

Exactly my concerns. It's crazy. I wouldn't mind if it wasn't generally so tough to get a recall!!

No, you're not being unreasonable, just fed up, as are most of us, with being compelled to doctor enforcement records; in other words, lie at the behest of target/cost driven management. Being uncomfortable means that you retain your integrity...

Some very good advice has been given but we still shouldn't be put in this position.

.........why did you ring him?? Seems pretty clean cut to me....3 failed appts = Breach x But there again, what the f*** do I know?

You ring because there is a question on the form that asks what you did to gain compliance

First question asked is - 'have you tried to make contact?' I remember the days when it was their responsibility to attend and not ours to remind them repeatedly. A world away from now!!

Actually l often called to remind. My Dr sends me a text every appt now and that is not their job. Chaotic people need support.

Are you in a union? If so, ask you local rep to raise this issue at JNCC. Get the response minuted - it's then the organisation's formal instruction and this can be referred to when it all goes t**s up!

Thank you. I will do, especially as it doesn't seem to be a more widespread issue.

Question. .. Who makes up the enforcement team?

In our area it is a team of admins. To be fair to them they are just following protocol as you cannot have more than 3 UA's on an event without enforcement action.

Sounds like everyone does things differently. You can make a decision not to enforce an order with multiple absences without falsifying it (crazy to even suggest it)as long as your decision is defensible. If the proverbial hit the fan and you can stand by your decision then so be it. If you are made to record something you are not comfortable with make sure you say that you were instructed and by whom. I'm not sure an instruction from an admin enforcement team would hold much weight of you were answering questions in an SFO interview though. .. just a thought.....

Because in our CRC, enforcement action is an automated process. A 2nd absence (or 3rd licence) triggers an alert on a report that is looked at daily by the enforcement team. If enforcement action isn't taken at that time (due to whatever reason/professional judgement) and the individual fails again (making it 3rd or 4th, etc,) this is not sent through to the report as the system thinks they have already been breached (if this makes sense?!).

Our enforcement team is just following instructions as per the process dictated to them, unfortunately. X

I like the idea of the alert as sometimes it's missed, but these new instructions seem to be taking away your professional judgement...

It has it's positives although waiting for the system to pick up what I am ultimately the 'Responsible Officer' for does not sit comfortably with me, at all.

Now I can see how the term Responsible Officer takes away your role as manager...!! Watering down of the role. ..

I checked the process with an SPO before accepting the absences in the case in question. What I have learnt from this is if I don't want to be in the same boat again - I need to build a stronger case for recall I suppose it's less of a problem with Orders as we can (at the moment) make the call to breach whereas recalls have to be authorised.

It's funny because at our end we have to build a strong case NOT to recall.

You have to laugh or you'd cry!!

True!! Makes sense why we couldn't hold the service together!! x

The end of professionalism.


  1. Does not seem to be any mention of the recall teams at noms, who are the ultimate decision-makers about recall. Professional judgement was handed over to civil servants in a call-centre some years ago in a pre-emptive strike to manage CRCs. Don't forget paperwork is headed "Request for Recall".

  2. Should be easier to secure compliance when lower risk 'green' Working Links cases only need to be able to answer their phone to fulfil appointment attendance.Remote case management being piloted in New Operational Hubs. Will be interesting to see results of this pilot both in terms of completions and 're-offending.

  3. Probation Officer19 March 2016 at 09:00

    I don't understand the push to recall here. 3 appointments were missed, telephone contact was made, the management decision was to not recall. I agree with the management, make the last absence acceptable use it as an opportunity to get him in.

    There are lots of "if's" here, but at the moment he hasn't committed an SFO and if he did the PO is protected by the management decision to make the absence acceptable.

    I rarely agree with CRC's processes but the decision to not recall is correct, and the PO's moaning about it is incorrect. Probation is not an enforcement agency.

    1. She's not 'moaning' about it. It is fine not to recall on 3 unacceptable absences but it is questionable whether it is ok to make what is essentially an unacceptable absence, acceptable. I would feel more comfortable leaving it as unacceptable but providing a verbal warning however it seems that the systems and processes do not allow for this - that is the problem.

    2. I don't see the problem. She's spoken to him, therefore made contact and the absence is now acceptable. Get him in, explain he's got the benefit of the doubt and that is a verbal warning overall. The CRC process is sound.

    3. But it's NOT acceptable. That's the problem. It needs to remain as unacceptable on the system.

    4. Speaking on the phone doesn't make up for missing an appointment, evidence of a good reason used to be required. If an unacceptable absence has to be recorded as acceptable just to make an electronic system work then there's something wrong with the system.

    5. cometh the SFO the absurdities of what constitutes an appointment met will make good copy for the tabloids and it will neatly demonstrate the nonsense at the heart of the new probation bureaucracy - and its disdain for real life and its vacuous actions to protect the public.

    6. Does missing appointments matter? Japanese Hogoshi (volunteer Probation Officers) have observed that the most consistent keepers of appointments are the repeat offenders. European probation officers view the clients attitude as more important than keeping appointments. Is there any evidence that clients breached for technical reasons are more likely to re-offend

  4. IDS's decision & published letter reveals how toxic & ruthless Tories can be if they can't get their own way. Sell their own mother, kill their own brother. What new evil will fill the vacuum?

    1. "I am incredibly proud of the welfare reforms that the government has delivered over the last five years. Those reforms have helped to generate record rates of employment and in particular a substantial reduction in workless households.

      As you know, the advancement of social justice was my driving reason for becoming part of your ministerial team and I continue to be grateful to you for giving me the opportunity to serve. You have appointed good colleagues to my department who I have enjoyed working with. It has been a particular privilege to work with excellent civil servants and the outstanding Lord Freud and other ministers including my present team, throughout all of my time at the Department of Work and Pensions.

      I truly believe that we have made changes that will greatly improve the life chances of the most disadvantaged people in this country and increase their opportunities to thrive. A nation's commitment to the least advantaged should include the provision of a generous safety-net but it should also include incentive structures and practical assistance programmes to help them live independently of the state. Together, we've made enormous strides towards building a system of social security that gets the balance right between state help and self help.

      Throughout these years, because of the perilous public finances we inherited from the last Labour administration, difficult cuts have been necessary. I have found some of these cuts easier to justify than others but aware of the economic situation and determined to be a team player I have accepted their necessity.

      You are aware that I believe the cuts would have been even fairer to younger families and people of working age if we had been willing to reduce some of the benefits given to better-off pensioners but I have attempted to work within the constraints that you and the chancellor set.

      I have for some time and rather reluctantly come to believe that the latest changes to benefits to the disabled and the context in which they've been made are a compromise too far. While they are defensible in narrow terms, given the continuing deficit, they are not defensible in the way they were placed within a Budget that benefits higher earning taxpayers. They should have instead been part of a wider process to engage others in finding the best way to better focus resources on those most in need.

      I am unable to watch passively whilst certain policies are enacted in order to meet the fiscal self imposed restraints that I believe are more and more perceived as distinctly political rather than in the national economic interest.

      Too often my team and I have been pressured in the immediate run up to a budget or fiscal event to deliver yet more reductions to the working age benefit bill. There has been too much emphasis on money saving exercises and not enough awareness from the Treasury, in particular, that the government's vision of a new welfare-to-work system could not be repeatedly salami-sliced.

      It is therefore with enormous regret that I have decided to resign. You should be very proud of what this government has done on deficit reduction, corporate competitiveness, education reforms and devolution of power. I hope as the government goes forward you can look again, however, at the balance of the cuts you have insisted upon and wonder if enough has been done to ensure "we are all in this together".

    2. Laura Kuenssberg BBC:-

      On Wednesday night, senior figures in the Treasury felt quite chipper about the Budget. They knew that things would get a bit bumpy over the cuts to benefits for some disabled people. But in the words of one senior Conservative, the changes were "defensible" on Wednesday because MPs would be able to say it was true that the overall budget was going up.

      But as MP after MP expressed concern over those welfare changes, the policy became impossible to defend. The sense at the Treasury on Thursday was that if Iain Duncan Smith's department wanted to tweak the policy, fair enough - but he had to find the savings dictated by the welfare cap. Well, no more. Through today it became impossible to defend the policy. And now, Mr Duncan Smith's resignation and his explosive explanation of his motivations undermines everything. And it creates a list of problems for the government as long as your arm.

      First, it means moves in ministerial teams at a hugely sensitive time.

      Second, it undermines not just these particular reforms but the whole Budget.

      Third, Mr Duncan Smith's letter suggests the government's mantra that "we are all in this together" is not true.

      Fourth, this creates even more animosity in the Tory party during the EU referendum campaign.

      Five, this attack on the Budget undermines George Osborne's chances of taking over the Tory leadership, when this budget was seen as a chance for him to burnish those credentials after a few bruising encounters.

      And now IDS is out of government, what more will he have to say?

      IDS has for some months had doubts about staying on in government but what are the events that led to his dramatic exit tonight? This timeline of events may be disputed on the record, but sources familiar with what happened in the last few days have given me this account.
      1. The Treasury tells the Department for Work and Pensions they have to get long-term PIPs changes ready for Budget so the savings can be included. The DWP reluctantly agrees.
      2. The story about changes to PIPs breaks on Friday, campaign groups, opposition and some backbench MPs start to get worried
      3. On Saturday, IDS finds out that Budget will also give Capital Gains Tax cuts to better off voters at the same time as the cuts to disability benefit cuts for individuals that he resisted.
      4. Iain Duncan Smith was angry about those reforms happening at the same time, but he does not conclude at that point that he has to resign.
      5. After the Budget, opposition and Tory backbenchers start to speak out against PIP changes
      6. On Thursday, the Treasury and Number 10 pressure IDS's team to get out and defend the changes, saying they must not back down. IDS himself refuses to defend them publicly, but junior minister Justin Tomlinson agrees to a series of TV interviews.
      7. Late on Thursday night, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan hints that there might be changes, although the Department for Work and Pensions had been told to stand firm. This angers Duncan Smith further.
      8. Late on Friday afternoon, government sources say that the policy on PIPs has been dumped, "into the long grass" making Iain Duncan Smith furious the policy he only reluctantly signed up to has been junked by the party leadership.
      9. He decides to quit and the prime minister fails to persuade him to stay on. He pens his explosive letter questioning the government's central defence of its central policy of slimming down government spending, "we're all in it together".

      Now Iain Duncan Smith, who made his name as a Maastricht rebel, is out of government, what will he say next?

    3. I love the sound of an imploding Tory cabinet and I hope it gets very nasty. At the very least it is plainly pointed out that the impact of austerity reflects political decisions - welfare cuts, tax cuts for the better off. It's Tory austerity and that Catch 22 fan of austerity, Chris Wright, forgets this when he is cheer-leading cuts.

    4. Trouble ahead! Independent:-

      Iain Duncan Smith has surprised political pundits and colleagues by unexpectedly announcing his resignation last night as Minister for Work and Pensions. He had been the focus of much anger against austerity measures during his time in office as he oversaw a number of severe cuts to benefits. According to Mr Duncan Smith, his resignation is in response to this week’s Budget as he said the government’s cuts to disability benefits were “not defensible” at the same time as tax-cuts for high earners.

      However, a legal decision this week has come to light which may also have had some bearing on the Minister’s decision. The DWP has been ordered to release potentially damaging documents after a four year long legal battle to suppress them.

      In 2012, Freedom of Information requests were submitted to the Department for a number of reports relating to the early stages of Universal Credit. The reports contain details of problems and concerns which DWP staff raised about the programme and the outcome of a high-level review of the scheme. The DWP refused to reveal the information.

      Appeals were submitted to the Information Commission who decided that all but one of the requested reports should be published. The DWP contested this again and a lengthy legal battle ensued. This week, once more, another judge ruled that they must publish the information.

      The DWP has said it is suppressing the reports because they were compiled on the assumption that the information would remain internally and that if they were to become public knowledge, it would have the “chilling effect” of staff no longer briefing the Department completely honestly as they would always be wary that the information would get out.

      However, critics have argued that the Department is more likely to be concerned that information in the reports is damning or embarrassing for the DWP and by extension its Minister, Mr Duncan Smith.

      In particular, the DWP has projected that the Universal Credit scheme would be extended to 12 million claimants by 2017. However, figures suggest that a mere 200,000 have joined the scheme, which would represent a gross failure to meet the target.

  5. I agree that It seems like SFOs are being hushed up. I've just done a PSR on such a case managed by CRC and no mention in logs about SFO or any action taken when offender remanded for crime??

  6. Probation Officer19 March 2016 at 21:06

    I still disagree and it is "moaning" by the PO (PSO I suspect) hung up on enforcement (how I hate that word). There are some unanswered questions that may have changed my view. How long after the last absence was the phone contact? What was the reason for the absences? Has he since attended? What was contact like before the absences? Contact was made with this man, the manager has endorsed an absence as acceptable, I don't see what the problem is. Even before TR it wasn't unusual every now and then to make an absence acceptable to avoid a breach or recall. 'Quality assurance and monitoring' of National Standards used to regulary come with management instructions to change contact and enforcement entries too.

    I agree with Anon 15:25. SFO's are being hushed up and risk escalations are not taking place.

    1. The manager has not endorsed the absence as acceptable, that's the whole point. It is unacceptable but they are not recalling. Fair enough. The problem arises when the system won't allow for the truth to be recorded.

    2. The SPO has endorsed it.

      "I've raised at SPO level that I am not happy to do this as none of them were justifiable absences - but have been told this HAS to be done, as otherwise the 'enforcement procedure' won't work."

    3. The officer clearly doesn't believe there was a good enough reason given for the absences but has been overruled by the SPO to satisfy an electronic system which cannot comprehend that recall is not the inevitable outcome of a third unacceptable absence.
      The electronic system is wrong, the SPO is wrong.

    4. But we don't know the reason for the absences or the time period between the last absence and the subsequent contact. It's difficult to support either side until this is known.

  7. From The Guardian/Observer

    "The Iain Duncan Smith legacy? Universal credit will not transform welfare

    As Iain Duncan Smith leaves his position as work and pensions secretary, will he be remembered as a ‘great reformer’, or the man who made a flawed system worse?

    Jonathan Portes Saturday 19 March 2016 23.13 GMT"

    I have made a comment using the pseudonym Tolkny & mentioning Probation